Before visiting the Moulin Rouge, one can reflect on how life fleets by and how those lovely dancers' bodies will rot by going round the corner and visiting the Montmartre Cemetery, Paris's northern cemetery. Much smaller than Père Lachaise, it really is a very cramped place to spend eternity. As with the other cemeteries of Paris, it has its celebrities: Berlioz, Delibes, the Camondo family. It seems to have more cats than the others.
Where this cemetery is far superior to the others is in the helpfulness of the staff. At all of the Paris cemeteries the staff will give the coordinates of and directions to any grave if one has the correct name and date of death. Ask for anything more, however, such as the name of the person who paid for the plot or, if it is a family vault, for the names of all those interred within, and the usual response is a refusal to give out that information. At Montparnasse, one is told that it is not permitted to reveal such details and the register books are kept downstairs. At Père Lachaise, we were told that no one could ever learn those secrets; when we tried to insist, we were fed a pack of ridiculous lies.
At Montmartre, we sought a grave and as many details as possible about it. Not only was the cat moved from the counter so we could be shown the register books, we were allowed to photograph them. Even better, we were allowed to do the same with the file on that person, which showed who else was buried there. As these other names were not on the grave marker, this generosity on the part of the very kind staff yielded valuable genealogical information about the family.
We cannot say why the staff are friendlier at Montmartre; it must be the cats.
©2010 Anne Morddel